Reconciliation: Received and Extended

Reconciliation is not external; it is internal.

The political and social events surrounding our country this past week have certainly been agonizing.  My heart has been broken in realizing that the racial discord in our country is more heightened and raw than it has been in years.  The debate has moved passed policy to deep-seated emotions.  Social media is aflame with opinions, some brash while others more measured.  Above all, it is simply sad.

This is not a political blog nor is it a social issue one.  My intent is to spotlight a few nuances of reconciliation that have been kicking around in my mind.  In its essence, this is a spiritual blog as there are internal factors that drive reconciliation or the lack thereof.  I also write on leadership.  Therefore, leadership, particularly Christ-centered ones, have an obligation not simply to discuss reconciliation but to incarnate it and model it.  Thus, I present some musings…

Reconciliation necessitates humility.  Quite simply, a proud person is not able to reconcile.  Rather they stand in judgment over another person.  Or, they enjoy the conflict so much they have no desire to reconcile.  A proud person is not able to extend forgiveness or receive it.  Humility lies at the core of reconciliation.  It drives an embrace for our shared brokenness.  It is willing to be the first to move towards peace.  It sees the relationship as something that transcends slights and pain.  For someone who has experienced deep pain, humility is not a cavalier exercise but requires deep reflection and gradual movement towards another person with the hope that reconciliation might one day be possible.

Reconciliation is potently released through redemption.  I believe it is possible for a non-Christian to be reconciled; it is a gift available through common grace.  However, there is something unique about the redemption experience.  It is grounded in the affirmation that we are completely at-fault.  Yet, God extends forgiveness.  In the divine-human relationship, it is completely one-sided.  There is no shared fault.  It does not involve dissecting motives.  Reconciliation with Christ is merely a matter of extension and receiving.  God extends it; we receive it.  Ok, this is powerful.  It reinforces humility in that we do not deserve it.  But practically, it is a template for our human relationships.  We extend forgiveness; it is up to the person to receive it.  It is not an option.  Our receiving from Christ mandates our extending grace to others.  Does this mean that reconciliation will occur?  No.  But, it does lay the seed for it to happen.  It becomes possible.  In contrast, withholding forgiveness will most certainly eliminate the possibility of reconciliation.  It becomes impossible.

Reconciliation involves risk.  This is a primary reason reconciliation does not occur.  I have to put my emotions and identity on the table.  I leave it open for another person to either accept or reject it.  It is far easier to hold my emotions and identity to my chest, guarded by my control.  By doing so, I will not get hurt (so I think as lack of forgiveness usually begins to feed on self in the form of bitterness and resentment).  God took a risk on us; He expects us to do the same towards others.  But, be assured, when reconciliation does not occur, God’s grace will remain present, freeing us from the bondage of pain.

Encouragements (and challenges) for leaders:

  • Healthy leaders process hurt because it leads to (and models) reconciliation.
  • Healthy leaders create mechanisms and space for reconciliation because they are stewards of the relationships around them.
  • Leaders who intentionally stoke unhealthy conflict are abusing their authority. When this occurs, followers should cry foul.
  • Followers energized by unhealthy conflict are not only misguided, they themselves typically have unresolved hurt in their lives. Conflict becomes an outlet for their pain.
  • Christian leaders do not have a choice when it comes to reconciliation. Receiving redemption from Christ mandates it.